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Berkeley County to tax waste at new facility

March 13, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The Berkeley County Solid Waste Authority voted Wednesday to impose a tax of 50 cents per ton on municipal waste handled at a yet-to-be-built facility that will produce solid refuse fuel from some of the trash.

The county board’s decision comes after a Public Service Commission administrative law judge signed off on the proposed $19 million mechanical-biological solid waste facility proposed by Entsorga West Virginia LLC to be operated near Martinsburg.

The tax, which is authorized by state law, would not be collected until Entsorga begins handling waste, which could occur next year, Solid Waste Authority Chairman Clint Hogbin said Wednesday.

As for a location for the facility, Entsorga has proposed leasing 10.3 acres of the old Berkeley County landfill property off Grapevine Road from the solid waste authority.

The fuel produced could be burned in the Essroc cement plant’s kiln and allow that operation to reduce its use of coal, officials have said.

The solid waste authority also on Wednesday formed a subcommittee to meet with legal counsel, an appraiser and insurance specialists to work through the specifics of a lease with Entsorga, Hogbin said.

“The mood of the board was very positive of course, thrilled with the decision,” Hogbin said of the recommended decision by Administrative Law Judge Meyishi Pearl Blair that was filed Monday.

Hogbin said the board felt it needed to act quickly on the tax issue for the PSC’s benefit and reflects a conservative approach to making sure the solid waste authority’s finances remain stable.

Entsorga filed for a state permit to receive up to 7,333 tons of solid waste per month and Hogbin said the new facility could affect the volume of waste that now is taxed when it is received at North Mountain Sanitary Landfill.

“We don’t know what kind of (tax) revenue we’re going to lose there,” Hogbin said.

The 50 cents per-ton tax, the maximum rate allowed by statute passed by state lawmakers in 1991, could very well be reduced at a later time by the solid waste authority, Hogbin said.

The tax rate already was factored into a $63-per-ton tipping fee that Entsorga would be allowed to charge waste haulers in the approved rates recommended by Blair.

Apple Valley Waste Services Inc., previously agreed to haul municipal waste to the facility and Hogbin has said the waste hauler has repeatedly said it would not increase customers’ rates as a result of the Entsorga venture.

Entsorga has proposed allowing waste haulers to access the facility from a new entrance on Grapevine Road, about eight-tenths of a mile from the intersection with W.Va. 9, according to Hogbin.

The new entrance that would keep truck traffic out of two sharp curves, Hogbin said. 

Entsorga’s equity is to be owned by Entsorgafin S.p.A., an Italian joint stock company, Apple Valley Waste Technologies Inc., and Chemtex International Inc., according to the recommended decision.

Blair’s recommendation that the PSC grant the facility a certificate of need will become the commission's final decision if no exceptions are filed within 15 days.

In his experience with four or five previous PSC cases, Hogbin said the commission has accepted the recommended decision as the final decision or made minor changes before accepting it.

Entsorga’s facility, if ultimately built, would screen trash with a large rotary drum that would tear open trash bags to aerate the garbage. Rapid composting would be caused by an air circulation system. Moisture in the waste would be reduced by a combination of fresh and recirculated warm air. The result would be a dry paper-like product, according to Entsorga’s application, which was filed with the PSC in 2012.

Entsorga anticipates 80 to 100 percent of the waste accepted at the facility would come from in-state sources, according to Blair’s recommended decision. Hogbin said Monday that Entsorga’s operation would divert tons of material to the county’s recycling program and possibly double the volume. The county program handled a little more than 5,000 tons last year, Hogbin said.

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